Suddenly Everything Was Different

Suddenly Everything Was Different

German Lives in Upheaval

Olaf Georg Klein

Translated by Ann McGlashan

Edited by Dwight D. Allman

eBook for Handhelds

Camden House



A unique historical and literary document of lives dislocated by the collapse of East Germany.
What happens when the world in which people have crafted identities for themselves and lived their lives suddenly disappears? How does a person -- or a nation -- confront such a shock? From 1990 to 1993, at an unparalleled moment in German history, Olaf Georg Klein interviewed almost a hundred fellow former East German citizens, probing their experiences of the sudden collapse of the German Democratic Republic, then crafting that material into twelve first-person narratives. The result is a literary account whose narrators include representatives from the cities and the countryside, from young and old, from the East German power elite and the resistance, as well as from those in position to be critical of both the GDR and united Germany. The book was a sensation in Germany upon its publication in 1994, and the translation will be of interest to students and scholars in history and political science, sociology, psychology, and literary studies. It includes an introduction and extensive annotations to assist the reader in understanding the East German and unified German contexts.

Olaf Georg Klein's novel Aftermath was published in translation by Northwestern University Press in 1999. Ann McGlashan is Associate Professor of German and Dwight D. Allman is Associate Professor of Political Science, both at Baylor University.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781571137036), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


240 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
Paperback, 9781571133694, July 2007
eBook for Handhelds, 9781782047551, July 2007
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000, POL058000
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Table of Contents

Introduction - Dwight Allman
Translator's Preface - Ann McGlashan
Author's Preface - Olaf Georg Klein
"I think it comes from keeping everything bottled up inside and never opening your mouth..." Klara D., 38, artist, emigrated to the West in 1984
"So much of the really good life was lost to us..." Petra B., 41, case worker for exit permits
"You should know I won't be blackmailed..." Protestant country pastor, born 1925
"They even accuse me of having planned murders..." Major Glewe, 45, retired State Security officer
"I never cared much for work just for the sake of work..." Hartmut L., 43, conscientious objector, social worker, insurance agent agent
"And that's why you'd rather give in first..." Bärbel C., 28, daycare worker, wife of a former border guard
"So what's changed? Patriarchy hasn't disappeared..." Beate G., 45, institute employee and sculptor in metal
"I always hope I won't wake up in the morning..." Rudi K., 39, former "unofficial co-worker" of the Secret Police, now right-wing radical right-wing radical
"Somehow or other I want to make up for the mistakes I made back then..." Peter D., 41, journalist, member of the SED, escaped to the West, returned in 1990, founder of a newspaper returned in 1990, founder of a newspaper
"So how are people ever going to connect with each other?" Günter C., 56, laborer, unemployed and in debt
"You have to keep your mouth shut and do your job as if it's the most fulfilling thing in your life..." Peter B., 18, school student in the East, trainee in the West
"You can best change the world by changing yourself..." Lars N., 40, pastor, philosopher, party founder
Works Consulted & Cited


Klein saw his work as "a book of histories" of how individuals confront the past and present when their political "system" evaporates.... The interviewees' hopes and fears are poignantly illuminated by the virtually verbatim transcripts.... A valuable resource for students of history and political science. CHOICE

Most of us have an apparent idea of what the word "unification" means: two becoming one, or perhaps the formation of something new from two parts that fuse. By contrast, German unification in 1989-90 was, from a legal point of view, an asymmetrical process.. To West Germans everything remained the same; to East Germans suddenly everything was different: they were "trained GDR citizens without a GDR.". In [this book], twelve people rethink their childhood, career, and life in the GDR and afterwards. The oldest narrator was born in 1925, the youngest in 1974. None of them was a high-ranking representative of the GDR. Their stories answer many questions, particularly concerning their attitude toward ancien régime..Even if the finer points of language can only be noticed in the original, the sensitive translation by Ann McGlashan successfully performs the balancing act between preserving the original and providing a version accessible to English-speaking readers. H-NET

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